San Antonio Should Be Every NBA Free Agents Dream Destination

Feb 26, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with guard Tony Parker (9) in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with guard Tony Parker (9) in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

This year marks the 20th consecutive season that the San Antonio Spurs have had a record of .600 or better, doing it all with a foundation built on the under-appreciated.

The Greg Popovich/Tim Duncan era in San Antonio is like nothing the NBA has ever seen. The level of consistency in a major sports league, particularly in North America, has gone unrivaled.

The foundational players within the Spurs franchise, until this season, were made up of Duncan, the number-one pick in the 1996 draft, and a selection of undrafted and second-round players with a chip on their shoulder.

The Hall of Fame Core

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli were the 28th and 57th picks in their respective drafts. Two names who are now likely sure-fire Hall of Famers.

Between them, the accolades alone are enough to cement their stats as basketball legends.

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Between Parker and Ginobli, they’ve accrued 8x All-Star selections, 8x All-NBA Team selections, a Sixth Man of the Year award, a Finals MVP and 4x NBA championships. That’s before you take a look at the impact they’ve had on the cultural development of the NBA as a whole.

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  • The list of great NBA players hailing from European countries is a spectacle in and of itself. Dirk Nowitzki, Marc and Pau Gasol, Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc and Vlade Divac to name a few, and it doesn’t stop there.

    Quite the opposite, in fact. The league now has more international athletes than ever before. On opening night the official number of non-US born players was 113, a new record.

    Three of the biggest up and coming superstars in the league today, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid, were all born overseas.

    If you look at potential as a locked door, you need a specific key to open it. For the Spurs, that key has been professionalism, structure, and above all, confidence in the player’s ability.

    Neither Parker nor Ginobli are particularly gifted athletes. They both have a certain element of quickness but so do most guards of their size.

    The thing that distinguishes them from the norm is the fundamental understanding of the game. Both are extremely crafty and willing passers. Both are able to provide solid defensive cover, even at a size disadvantage, and both have the competence to identify a high quality look and not force the shot.

    The San Antonio Way

    San Antonio runs a system, like every other team in the league. The difference, and main reason that the success has been sustainable, is the selfless, team oriented nature of the Spurs.

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    Some could argue that the system makes players look better than they actually are. However, you can’t build a structurally stable house without a strong foundation.

    The long list of seemingly unwanted players that have transformed their careers under head coach Popovich is incredible.

    In the last few years, guys like Boban Marjanovic and Aaron Baynes have been productive in the Spurs system. Both international big men found a home in San Antonio and were able to quickly adapt with the right support.

    It took 61 NBA games under Coach Popovich for Marjonovic to earn himself a 3-year/$21m pay day with the Detroit Pistons. One year prior, Baynes signed with the Pistons on a similar 3-year/$20m deal after showing real potential and contributing on the 2014 Spurs Championship team.

    Even the players who were drafted by San Antonio late in the 1st-round have always been given a fair chance.

    Cory Joseph (29th) was able to shine as a backup to Parker, and when the team needed him to start, he would do so with confidence, earning himself a 4-year/$30m deal with his hometown Toronto Raptors.

    Tiago Splitter (28th) molded himself into a solid role player, particularly on the defensive end alongside Duncan. Splitter signed a 4-year/$36m offer sheet with the Atlanta Hawks in summer of 2015.

    The current team has been constructed very carefully with personalities who fit with the culture, instead of purely basing it on production or ability.

    Danny Green was drafted in the 2nd-round and then waived after 20 games. Since then he’s been the long-time starter at the shooting guard position. He is considered one of the best three-point shooters and perimeter defenders in the league, and is an NBA champion.

    Gary Neal, along with Green, put on one of the most memorable playoff performances in recent memory with a 3-point shooting barrage against the Miami Heat, combining for 51 points on 13/19 from beyond the arc. He also earned himself a 2-year/$6m deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Post Tim Duncan

    Kawhi Leonard was drafted with the 15th pick in 2011 and traded to the Spurs for point guard George Hill, which looking back now, seems like one of the biggest steals in recent memory (Unless you are the New Orleans Pelicans).

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    The patience and demeanor that Leonard has shown in his rise to stardom is possibly the most Spurs quality of all.

    There is no question that Leonard is going to be at the center of the San Antonio universe for the foreseeable future. He was developed and nurtured alongside Duncan in preparation for the day that he would be handed the reigns.

    It’s extremely rare, almost unheard of, for a team to lose one of the greatest players in history and barely skip a beat. The transition to a post-Duncan era of Spurs basketball was smooth and executed to a tee, because gradually the responsibility and confidence shaped Leonard into who he is today.

    The methodology of development hasn’t changed, either.

    Jonathon Simmons, along with rookies Dejounte Murray and Davis Bertans, are a testament to that. Murray in particular has reaped the benefits of allowing himself to be a blank canvas for Popovich to paint in his image.

    With Parker out of the rotation, Popovich has one of the top backup guards in Patty Mills. More often than not, he has given the 20 year-old Seattle native quality minutes.

    The Spurs method is tried and tested. It’s a proven way to assemble a confident and fundamentally sound group of athletes who play a team game. The familiarity of having home-grown players who know the system well enough, helps new faces integrate faster.

    There are a huge number of players who would benefit from a change of scenery. Sometimes the situation just isn’t right. That’s an extremely rare problem to find in the Alamo City.

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    The style of play may not always be high-flying or aesthetically pleasing to the causal NBA fan. However, its a solid way of playing. The execution is perfect and the system consistently produces, as Leigh Ellis from The Starters would say:

    “A Very Solid Play”